Mohs micrographic surgery is considered the single most effective technique for removing skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and a multitude of other types of skin cancers. An extremely precise skin cancer treatment, the Mohs surgery procedure allows the surgeon to remove a thin layer of tissue and examine it during rather than after surgery. As a result, the surgeon knows exactly when tissue is free of cancer cells so that healthy tissue is not removed unnecessarily. This allows for the highest cure rate, smallest surgical defect, and thus the best possible aesthetic outcome.
Cure rates for patients who have Mohs surgery are much higher than those for patients who have standard or other surgical methods to remove skin cancer.
Advantages for Mohs surgery for skin cancer treatment
- Precisely tracing and removing skin cancer cells that cannot be seen with the naked eye
- On-the-spot tissue examination to identify and remove malignant skin cancer cells to their roots
- Minimizing the chance skin cancer will regrow
- Preserving more normal tissue compared with standard or other surgical methods
- Less surgery scars and disfigurement
- Effective treatment for complex skin cancers, cancers of the face, sensitive areas, and visible areas
- Cure rates as high as 99% compared with 50% to 60% for other methods
- The highest cure rate for skin cancer
- Only surgeons who are specially trained in Mohs surgery perform the procedure. In addition to having expertise in the surgical technique, surgeons with Mohs surgery training also have expertise in examining tissue (pathology) and reconstructive surgery.
What to expect from Mohs surgery for skin cancer
If you are scheduled to have Mohs surgery to remove your skin cancer, we will discuss benefits and risks of the surgery and tell you what you can expect. We will instruct you about what to do to care for your wound and heal from your surgery.
The procedure will involve:
- Local anesthesia, which will be administered at the site of the cancer to numb the area (select cases may go to the operating room)
- Removing the cancer by precision excision with scalpel – a process that allows the surgeon to determine the margin between the cancer cells and healthy tissue
- Cancer mapping to ensure the cancer is precisely located (mapped) and with reference to local landmarks such as the nose, cheek, and chin. The tissue will then be labeled and color-coded to correlate with its position on the map. The surgeon will then process and examine tissue sections to look for cancer cells. It takes approximately 20 minutes to process, stain, and examine each section of tissue. During this time, your wound will be bandaged, and you may leave the operating suite
- Removing all cancer cells. If cancer cells are still present after tissue examination, the surgeon will return to the cancer area indicated on the map to remove, remap, color code, and examine another thin layer of tissue. This process will continue until the cancer is completely removed
- Reconstruction. In addition to having expertise in the surgical technique and pathologic process for examining tissue, surgeons trained in Mohs micrographic surgery are experts at reconstruction. Because the location and extent of cancer differs for each patient, the surgeon will tailor reconstruction to meet your needs, preserve normal function of the affected area, and yield the best aesthetic outcome with minimal Mohs surgery scars.